Delmarva Fox Squirrel officially recovered

By National Wildlife Refuge Association

Delmarva Fox Squirrel | Kathy Abend

Delmarva Fox Squirrel | Kathy Abend

Great news! On September 19 Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe announced at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to delist the Delmarva Fox Squirrel. This is the 52nd species to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act. The species was listed in 1967 due to habitat loss from development and timber harvesting in their native range.

“It takes a real village to protect a squirrel,” said Jewell at the announcement, noting the many partners who banded together to help with recovery efforts. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, and Gov. Martin O’Malley also attended, thanking the community members and private landowners who worked together to protect wildlife and the local forest economy.

These cute fluffy critters were once found throughout the Delmarva Peninsula. Unfortunately, at the time of listing, their range had been reduced to 10% of its original size and only occurred in three counties and a small island in one other county. This was due in large part to habitat loss from development and timber harvesting. The squirrels need mature trees for den sites as well as for a food source: mature trees provide more acorns.

Recovery efforts for this wonderful little creature began in 1945 when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources bought LeCompte Wildlife Management Area in DorchesterCounty. In 1971, legal hunting of the squirrel was banned. And then after the listing of the species, the Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel Recovery Team began to work with the State on conservation efforts including reintroduction of the species into counties where it was originally found.

Over 10 years later, 11 out of the 16 reintroduced populations are succeeding. The Delmarva Fox Squirrel is primarily found on privately owned land and can thrive in a landscape that is managed for farming and sustainable timber harvest. Uncut corn or soybeans along hedgerows can be left for the squirrel’s winter food provided by the farmers. Developers and timber harvesters also help the squirrel by leaving woodlot trees that produce nuts, seeds, and berries and also provide corridors from one woodlot to another.

Thanks to the wonderful efforts of these private landowners, the state of Maryland, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the population of this squirrel is finally high enough to be taken off the endangered species list since it has been fully recovered.

For more information see these resources:

Fact sheet from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Species information from the Chesapeake Bay Program 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Profile

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Species Profile